British PM May faces revolt from eurosceptic Tories in Brexit vote

LONDON (BLOOMBERG) – Britain’s Prime Minister Theresa May is facing a revolt from pro-Brexit members of her Conservative Party who are unhappy at signs she’s planning to take a no-deal split off the table.

Members of the anti-EU European Research Group met Chief Whip Julian Smith on Wednesday (Feb 13) evening to insist that leaving the bloc without an agreement must remain an option, according to people familiar with the matter.

The issue will come to a head on Thursday when the House of Commons votes on what should happen next in the Brexit talks, as May seeks to renegotiate her deal with the European Union.

In just six weeks the UK will leave the EU – with or without an agreement. May’s draft withdrawal contract was rejected by a huge margin in the Commons last month. No new accord has so far been reached.

May is aiming to mollify her critics and earn herself another two weeks of breathing space, promising Parliament further opportunities to have a say over what happens next if she can’t get a deal.

Pro-Brexit members of her Tory party are demanding she re-writes the deal because they say it keeps Britain tied too closely to EU rules, potentially forever.

Many eurosceptics would prefer a no-deal Brexit to leaving on May’s terms, despite fears it would cause severe damage to the UK economy.

On Thursday, May will ask the Commons to endorse the result of previous voting on Jan 29, when members of Parliament backed calls to re-write her Brexit agreement but opposed the idea of a no-deal divorce.

Wednesday’s meeting between eurosceptic Tories and May’s chief whip broke up without resolution, meaning some Conservatives in the ERG could vote against the government or abstain.

As May doesn’t have a majority in Parliament, that raises the prospect that she could be defeated.

While this would be embarrassing for the prime minister, its main practical effect would be to signal to Brussels how little room she has for maneuver.

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